Patient’s often ask, “Does acupuncture hurt?”
Well, to be honest. Yes, you will feel the needle entering the skin. However, most people don’t describe the sensation as “pain.” (And I’ve had some patients who report that they really don’t feel the needles at all).
I typically describe the sensation of acupuncture as similar to plucking an eyebrow hair: there’s a sting and burn when you pluck the hair, but it fades quickly. Same with acupuncture. There’s definitely a sensation with the insertion of the needle, but usually one that is tolerable and fades.
In my practice, I specifically use thin needles to make the experience as comfortable as possible. (These are definitely not the same thick needles that doctors use to give shots or have blood drawn for a lab test). Also, my patients lay on a cozy massage table and I insert the needles while they take deep breaths so that the discomfort is minimized.
I am both an acupuncture practitioner and acupuncture patient.
I have observed both for my patients and myself that every acupuncture session can feel a little different depending on certain circumstances. Acupuncture can feel more “pinchy” when a patient is *tired and hasn’t had enough sleep, *dehydrated from illness or other factors, or *a woman is menstruating or just about to menstruate.
After the needles go in, patients lay on the massage table for 20-30 minutes. I try to make the experience as comfortable as possible by dimming the lights and playing soft music.
The most common way to describe the experience of the acupuncture treatment is “relaxing.”
People often fall asleep or go into an in-and-out of sleep space. They may remain fully awake, but feel deeply calm and rested.
During the session, some people may feel sensations in their body. These are all normal possibilities when we activate the nervous system through the acupuncture treatment. They may feel tingling in their hands, or small muscle twitches in their legs. They might feel quick sensations of cold or hot in specific spots of the body. They may feel the needles get active in certain locations and then no longer feel the needles at all. They may feel as if a needle is in a certain place that it actually isn’t.
Sometimes people feel anxiety getting acupuncture for the first time. It’s a perfectly normal response to a new experience. In these cases, I may only use a few acupuncture points to help the patient get comfortable with how acupuncture feels. We go as slowly as we need so patients feel more at ease with the experience. With repeated sessions, most people feel more comfortable with the treatment and I am able to add in more healing acupuncture points. I have some patients who were formerly “scared of needles,” and now they look forward to their treatments.